“Death by a Thousand Cuts”
It was only her eyes that were different.
She still smiled just as often as she ever did, and each smile was as perfect and beautiful as every single smile that had come before. She still showed up late to their spa dates--and showed up late by the same exact margin that she always had. She still chatted at length about her day, she still laughed that tinkling laugh that rang out like a bell, she still insisted on paying every time they went out to lunch.
But her eyes had lost all warmth, all sense of connection. They were cold, her eyes, so very cold.
Perhaps any other pony wouldn’t have noticed the change. Lots of ponies thought that Rarity was a bit stiff, a bit icy. But not Fluttershy. She knew better. She’d seen--she’d felt--the warmth that radiated out from the unicorn’s large heart, the warmth that lay just beneath the surface of those mysterious, dark blue eyes. The warmth that was now gone.
Fluttershy didn’t know what to do or say about it, though. Because Rarity hadn’t changed in any other, overt ways. They were still friends. They still had their lunches and their massages and their gossip sessions conducted in hushed whispers over tea. It was just … it was only …
The pegasus always felt so cold, felt downright chilled to the bone, whenever she fell under Rarity’s gaze. Once upon a time, nothing made Fluttershy happier than to have Rarity look at her--to share a glance filled with knowing and understanding and love. But now, Rarity’s looks only made her flinch.
Still, though, she didn’t know what to say. Or even if she should say anything at all.
So Fluttershy said nothing. She said nothing, and in silence she shivered and in silence she wondered if she would ever feel warm again.
The other girls noticed, of course. Of course. Twilight had approached her first, followed not long after by Pinkie and Applejack, all three offering up their friendliest smiles and asking in their gentlest voices about what was wrong. She had returned all those awful, well-meaning smiles as best as she’d been able. She had told them that she was grateful for their concern but that nothing was the matter. Everything was fine.
It was not at all the truth, and yet it wasn’t quite a lie.
She made sure to not Pinkie promise anything, though. Just to be safe. It was always better to play it safe.
Finally, inevitably, Rainbow Dash had approached her. The brash young flier had barreled her way into Fluttershy’s cottage, her face serious and her eyes soft, and brushed Angel to one side. Before Fluttershy could so much as squeak out a protest, Rainbow had scooped her up into an almost painfully tight embrace.
She had cried, then, and Rainbow Dash had allowed her. She’d cried and she’d cried, and Dash had just held her wordlessly between her legs and wings, as though she could protect Fluttershy from all the pain in the entire world using nothing but her very body itself.
And even then, even still, Rarity’s eyes were so very cold.
It was Applejack who broke the stalemate at last. Honest, blunt, tactless Applejack. Although the farmer didn’t even mean to. Didn’t even realize. As Fluttershy headed into town for her weekly appointment at the spa, an ever diminishing hopefulness warring with despair within her breast, she happened to run into the orange earth pony along the dusty, empty road.
After they traded hellos, Applejack asked, in her easy, conversational way, if Fluttershy was going to Rarity’s fashion show in Canterlot next week. At that, Fluttershy froze. She froze, for just a moment, breathless, dizzy, blinking rapidly to try to ward off the sudden tears in her eyes … and then the rubber band inside her chest that had been pulling tighter and tighter finally snapped.
She muttered an apology in Applejack’s direction and then took off towards the spa at a full gallop. For once, Rarity had arrived first, and when Fluttershy burst through the doors, the unicorn offered up another one of those perfect, empty smiles.
“Why, hello, darling! How are--”
“You have a fashion show,” spat Fluttershy, her legs trembling as she panted and tried to catch her breath. “You have a show. In Canterlot. Next week.”
The smile wobbled but held on. “Yes, I do. I was going to invite you later this--”
“Applejack knew. I had to … I had to find out about something like this from Applejack?” She swallowed thickly and willed herself not to cry. “Why, Rarity? Why … why are you doing this?”
It was then that Rarity’s smile fell apart. She glanced away and raised a hoof to pat down her hair, a tell-tale sign that she was nervous and uncomfortable about something. After several long moments, Rarity delicately cleared her throat and replied, “Well, you see, the thing was, I simply didn’t want to bother you with something so ...” She turned back towards the pegasus and, when she did, that perfect smile was firmly back in place. “... something so petty and so frivolous. That’s all.”
And finally, horribly, Fluttershy understood.
She almost wished she didn’t.
Author's Notes: This piece is a revised version of a bit of writing I did for a "Thirty Minute Pony Stories" writing prompt given out by Bookman. Writing for the prompts is a ton of fun, so check 'em out if you have the time and the inclination!